Saturday, February 8, 2014

Battle of Santiago Harbor, 1898

With my recent return to the Spanish-American War project and Monty's excellent recommendation of Dan Carlin's American Peril (Podcast), I pulled old photos from the wargaming vault and set about reconstructing the naval Battle of Santiago.

The following chronicles the first outing for my 1/1200 Houston Ships collection.  If I recall, the rules used were Shipbase and was completely computer moderated by the American fleet commander.  In addition to being outclassed by the larger U.S. ships, the Spanish fleet was hampered by poor powder and suspect gunnery.  Shipbase modeled all of those inefficiencies into the game. 

With the safety of Santiago Harbor in jeopardy after the Spanish defeats at San Juan Hill and El Caney, Admiral Cervera was given the order to steam-up and make a run for open water.  Unfortunately for Cervera, the American fleet was blockading Cervera's fleet and awaited just outside the mouth of the harbor.  Escape was unlikely.  Cervera prepared his Will and letters to family and sent them ashore.

Spanish fleet exits Santiago Harbor.
American fleet lies in wait.
USS New York and Indiana have yet to join the blockade
USS Brooklyn prepares to open fire as the Spanish emerge.
Destroyers Furor and Ericsson mix it up
after Gloucester takes a torpedo.
USS New York attempts to catch up to the battle.
Spanish run for open for open water
As Cervera's fleet exits the harbor,
Oquendo is hit and begins to burn
Oquendo burns as Cervera races along the coast
USS Texas takes damage from Spanish gunfire and turns
around under the protection of Iowa.
Oquendo is stopped dead in the water
while Vizcaya takes major damage.
USS Brooklyn suffers torpedo damage from the
destroyer Pluton.
Cristobal Colon suffers damage.
In  a matter of minutes the short running gun battle is over.
All Spanish capital ships have been either disabled or sunk.

To reduce loss of life, Cervera had his ships run aground. 


  1. Nice stuff, Jonathan! I like 1/1200th naval - mainly Ancients. Although I would like to do Imjin War also. Best, Dean

    1. Thanks, Dean! As you can see from these pictures (taken in 2000), I rarely get much naval gaming but I would be interested in giving ancients a try.

  2. Another nice surprise! I'm intrigued by the ability to have a PC moderate That certainly opens up a game for solo play.

    Any battle that starts with one general preparing his will is, um, going to be a problem. And so it was.

    1. Shipbase would be an excellent choice for solitaire gaming. Using the computer certainly removed many of the detailed accounting procedures required by naval games.

      Poor Cervera!

  3. I just lectured over this battle on Thursday. Pretty one sided . . .

    1. I would have enjoyed listening in to your lecture. The battle was completely one-sided!

  4. Excellent! Love the ships and the explanations...

    1. Thank you, Phil!

      No cool animations as in your BatReps but glad you enjoyed it.

  5. I remember this one. The rules were Shipbase III (I still have the DOS-based program on 3.5" floppy...) The game was excellent for solo or even GM moderated events, as you could report to everyone "Multiple hits, fire burning aft" but save the actual damage report for the side affected. (Thus you may know you are hitting, but not the full effects) One problem the program ran into was that the 'Rate of Fire' was based on ideal conditions which resulted in significantly more effective secondaries than historically reported. I remember hacking my copy back in 1998-9 to bring the numbers down a little and adjust weapons based on Jane's and other sources. Good game.

    1. I knew you would remember this one. You probably enjoyed the turkey shoot more as the American player than I did as the Spanish.


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